The Hidden Truth About Taking Expired Medications

James Walton
By James Walton April 14, 2017 08:35

The Hidden Truth About Taking Expired Medications

Let’s get right to it. Your medicine cabinets look just like mine. If one equals none than its stands to reason that you have extra meds. You may even have some meds that don’t apply to anyone in your home. For me there are two motivations for having “too much” OTC medication around.

OTC – Over the Counter

  1. If my family needs relief or medical aid in a time when the shelves have gone bare and the doctors have gone to New Zealand I want to be prepared
  2. When loved ones are sick, there is little they won’t part with to get that medicine. It’s one of the most powerful bartering tools available.

Because your stockpile will most likely expire, let’s explore the full story on expired medications.

In fact, good health is well worth an expiring medicine cabinet. Still, you want to be able to put these meds to use and like everything else in your stockpile you should know whether these medicines are safe to use or not. Let’s take the guesswork out of medications.

Related: Top 30 Over-the-Counter Meds to Stockpile

The FDA Ruling is 30+ Years Old

The FDA instituted expiration dates on medicines way back in 1979. These dates were put on for public safety but I would also argue, as with most expirations dates, for turnover. You see when food or products “expire” you get to throw them out and go by new ones and that means $$ for the producers of those products. It’s a little diabolical but in the name of public health who can argue it, right?

Expiration dates also help with litigation. You see, going into business gets riskier every day. The tapeworm of America is the tort lawyer and they are hungry to attack medications and their effects. These lawyers have driven the price of health care through the roof. Expiration dates give the medicine companies protection if meds are taken after that date and something goes wrong.

So, what does, something goes wrong, mean?

With Most Medications, It’s A Matter Of Potency Not Poison

This is the issue with OTC and Prescription medications. When they age, they are subject to a loss in potency. We see the same effect in vitamins if you need a comparable. Some of those old vitamins on sale are little more than cellulose. A similar effect happens with your meds at home.

So where is the danger?

Compensating for the lowered potency brings about risks of its own, says Jennifer Adams, PharmD, EdD, a spokesperson for the APhA and the senior director of strategic academic partnerships at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. If an expired medication is now only 90 percent effective, some patients might just assume it’s safe to take two pills instead of one, or three instead of two, she says. “You aren’t really sure in terms of how much you’re going to be getting, and you could potentially be getting too much … That’s when it can be very dangerous.” (Source)

Potency is also incredibly important when you talk about life saving drugs. Drugs that lower blood pressure, stop heart attacks help with diabetes or asthma to name a few. If the efficacy of these drugs drops and you are depending on them to save your life, well, you’re going to die or overdose to compensate.

Related: Where to Buy Survival Antibiotics without Prescription?

Understanding the Governments Position

Though it’s easy to curse the government for their “over regulation” they have the duty of looking out for 300 million people. They are tasked with making decisions that will protect the lot of us, even those who aren’t too smart, while still allowing us the liberties and freedoms we demand. It’s not an easy task.

Without government regulation, the earth would be void of resources and many more people would die. It may seem like over kill and there is some treachery involved in the expiration decree but it protects people and businesses.


SLEP was a study conducted by the FDA for the U.S military. It found that most meds stored in exceptional conditions could last up to 5 ½ years past the expiration date. This study was conducted on OTC meds and prescriptions. It found common drugs like Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, allergy meds and even various prescriptions like opioids maintain 90% potency over the duration of the study.

This means most medications will last beyond their expiration date.

Still, the FDA utilized serious conditions for storage. Specially cooled facilities were used to store the meds over the 5 years. To me it would make sense that as meds begin to age move them into the fridge as this is your best version of a cool dry place.

Related: How To Prepare Medicinal Pickled Garlic

Not all meds hold up past the expiration:

EpiPen: This is a one-shot deal that could mean life or death. If you have no other option, of course, it will help but you put yourself or your family at serious risk using a less effective/expired EpiPen.

Aspirin: Normal aspirin and aspirin containing medicines lost their potency quickly and became ineffective shortly after expiration.

Amphetamines: The same was true of Amphetamines and meds containing them.

Antibiotics: Using degenerated antibiotics will only strengthen the bacteria you are fighting. Therefore, you must run the full course. Do not take expired antibiotics. Here are the only 4 antibiotics you’ll need when SHTF.

Life and Death Prescriptions: Never play around with expiration dates on meds that must work efficiently to save your life. Like the EpiPen there is no margin for error.

Bottom Line

  • The government has determined expiration dates to both keep us safe from making bad decisions and to help manufactures and retailers on turnover.
  • Most meds will be fine past the best buy date. Store your meds in a cool dry place and if they get close to aging out move them to the fridge.
  • If you have the means just replace them.
  • Some meds will not hold up over time.
  • Do not risk using expired, lifesaving medications.

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James Walton
By James Walton April 14, 2017 08:35
Write a comment


  1. chris April 14, 13:43

    I seal my meds in Mylar, add a moisture pack and an oxygen absorbent and let it fly, you really think it wont keep??? I have used some that i stored this way 10 yrs ago, and i am none the worse for it, Now with insulin forget it..but if its in cap or tab or pill form, it can be stored…..if you do it right….i would love and welcome your thoughts also….as iam not perfect, and 2 heads area better than 1…..

    Reply to this comment
  2. CCTer April 14, 13:52

    Getting my docs to prescribe antibiotics for SHTF is a “no go”. I have heard that you could use fish antibiotics. Does anyone have any info or links to using these types of antibiotics and to the amount to use?

    Reply to this comment
    • chris April 14, 14:11


      ebay fish mox….the fish antibiotics are the same as for humans and mammals, however remember the label is the law so only use as the label says too ok..wink wink…also feed stores sell this and more for use in your livestock, remember the label is the law…should be stored long term Mylar bags, buy the 99 dollar sealer from sorbent systems this system is the cheapest vacuum sealer that really works…, store long term for your critters needs….wink wink…i think i have dirt in my eye?..

      Reply to this comment
    • chris April 14, 14:15

      how to use any meds , buy the 2017 nurses handbook for meds, also buy the books, {when their is no doctor}
      {when their is no dentist} these fine publications will get you going in the right direction…also listen to patriot nurse, this gal has her stuff wired right……u tube…..also buy the book the lost ways…..

      Reply to this comment
    • Screech April 15, 01:02

      They amounts are the same no difference. Here is a link if you need one Just do a little research and you will find what you will need.

      Reply to this comment
    • Reesees April 18, 06:31 might be helpful.

      Reply to this comment
    • Cookie November 14, 07:30

      If you investigate this, most of the capsuled fish antibiotics are the same ones you get from your pharmacist – YES you can. I wouldn’t use any anitbiotics unless you desperately need them as this is the reason for all the “Superbugs” around now. Also, if you do take them, make sure you take the full amount as if your doctor had prescribed them for you – take every one for the 7-10 days you would normally get them prescribed for.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Laredo Rey April 14, 15:21

    Instead of trying to stockpile antibiotics, I would suggest buying a colloidal silver generator and making your own when you need it, No storage problem, and you can get a generator for less than $100. It will work off AC or DC and should last almost forever. You just need to replace the silver electrodes as they disintegrate from use. Mine is 20 years old and I haven’t needed to buy any antibiotics since.

    Reply to this comment
    • Older prepper April 14, 22:06

      Laredo Rey’. are you blue yet? I have heard, this will turn your body blue if you use too much of it, but it is good stuff. Right now, I am just using all of my REAL SILVER for daily use. What am I saving it for? This is how, the royals became to be called BLUE BLOODS as the eating from silver vessels, made it blue. I assume, most of you, already know this.

      Reply to this comment
      • Leoski April 16, 23:03

        I’ve always understood the term “blueblood” arose from the high incidence of hemophillia in royal lines as a result of prolonged practice of marrying only other royals and not outbreeding often enough. The Russian Czar’s son for example, suffered from hemophillia.

        Reply to this comment
      • Graywolf12 April 18, 02:05

        Check it out. If you have the right genes you might turn blue. I forgot the %, but I think your chances of turning blue are less than 1 in 10,000. There is a dosage calculator on the web.

        Reply to this comment
    • Reesees April 18, 06:34

      Laredo Rey I’ve often wondered why a liquid metal can be ingested and not do harm to the body; do you have to limit your intake to prevent poisoning? I’d like to learn more about colloidal silver. Thanks.

      Reply to this comment
      • Graywolf12 June 23, 16:14

        Look on the web for dose chart for colloidal silver. The chart I have is for a 500 PPB solution. The dose chart show you how to us it for other concentrations.

        Reply to this comment
  4. efzapp April 14, 22:02

    I have no problem using old, expired meds. If they’re old just up the dosage; instead of one use two. I buy fish antibiotics online and they are the same. I have painkillers which are over 10 years old and I just take 2 instead of one. But before you say okay I’ll do that, know yourself and your medicine. Personally, I’m an old hippie so I’ve popped a lot and my uncle was a pharmacist who gave me a lot of info on medications. I’m no dummy so I didn’t pop just any pill.

    Reply to this comment
    • Bertha April 16, 06:26

      I read about a study for the US military where it was concluded that 15 year old antibiotics were still OK to use. An exception is the “Cyline” family of antibiotics. They become toxic with age.

      Reply to this comment
    • Fifties' baby July 28, 11:47

      Thanks! I hate waste, so never do toss meds – just ‘up’ the dosage. #Fiftiesbaby

      Reply to this comment
  5. dweiss April 15, 01:58

    not just antibiotics, but for the other critters which have been the bane of human existence since time immemorial. lice, ticks, fleas, flies, intestinal and all other types of worms. watch out for the efficacy of lice shampoos/treatments/collars, etc. mites can cause coptic mange, which both animals and humans can get. diaper rash ointment, zinc oxide, sunburn/burn treatments/ointments. not just what’s in the article.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Fivegunner April 15, 14:51

    I want to thank you for this article, Good info.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Sue April 15, 19:20

    Ticks! Oil is my way of making the tick let go and not have any problems with digging out any pieces. I choose to use baby oil as the lid is tall. Nearly fill the lid with oil have the patient help so you do not leak most of the oil out. Just invert the lid over the tick. To be sure we time it for 3 minutes. Remove lid and the tick is now in the lid, not on the person and it was all with no pain. Any oil would do, probably rubbing alcohol but I like the smell of baby oil. I took off hundreds of ticks this way at a camp one year in
    the state of Virginia..
    Best wishes! Sue from Arizona.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Russ April 17, 20:47

    You can buy 100ml bottles of injectable AB’s for animals from vets in australia! I am not sure about in usa. They are cheap and have good expiry dates.
    May not suit you if you need tablet form. But as a nurse the injectables are fine for me and only requires some dosage calculation, needles and syringes.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Val April 18, 18:19

    In the world of pharmacy we are taught that the expirations on the drugs are for when the drug has dropped to 80% of its potency. Also storage is REALLY important, no light, air, moisture, heat, these things degrade the tablet and effectiveness. Also the 2 drugs that I know of that will kill you when used after expiration is aspirin and tetracycline. If the aspirin smells like vinager, Don’t use. And Tetracycline not to use at all after they expire. I would suggest talking to a few pharmacist to find out more.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Herblady22 April 19, 18:47

    Epipens hold 85-95% of their charge at 2 years but can be boosted by taking them with the longer acting benedryl pills. Sublingual Epinephrine tested as well as injected in rabbit models, so I would grind them up with my teeth and let dissolve under my tongue if I needed some and had no injector.

    Also, if you have anaphylapptic reactions to bee stings or other insects see:

    Reply to this comment
  11. Clint May 2, 07:45

    An interesting article about expiration date on medicine and drugs:

    Reply to this comment
  12. Joelster September 4, 19:12

    I feel lucky to have stumbled onto “The Lost Ways” and to it’s author, who in turn has provided all these additional avenues of collective information as well. The input of many is far superior to the input of a few… Thank you all for your trial and error … your willingness to share… all of it. I do feel ( as most ) that we are at the doorstep of a changed world… I hope that others will see and begin the process of doing what they need to do too secure their families needs in what’s sure to be the challenge of any humans lifetime…..

    Reply to this comment
  13. Susan April 18, 01:46

    Harvard did a study that medicines are still good for 10 years after their expiration date, except for nitroglycerin, insulin, and antibiotics. I believe for epi-pens it may only be 4 years, but you can tell by the color change. However, if your life depends on it, proceed with caution. I personally feel that expiration dates were not for our safety, but as a benefit for the pharmaceutical companies. If they really cared about our safety, they wouldn’t approve medications that can cause cancer and death.

    Reply to this comment
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